Love You From The Top
Nearly 35 years ago, James Kinds was listed as one
Chicago’s most promising young bluesmen by Living
Blues. He had been working since the late ’50s in
the Windy City, first with the Soul Seekers, then
Little Mack Simmons and others like Johnny B.
Moore, Lee “Shot” Williams and Eddie King.
During that time, he was developing a powerful vocal
style mixing soul and gospel and a riveting stage
presence. He recorded a 45 in the late ’70s, called
“Ada,” that received a lot of attention. However,
after the write-up in Living Blues and a 1977 tour
of Europe with Billy Branch, Lurrie Bell, and
others, Kinds’ career basically stalled.
He relocated to Los Angeles to work with Ike Turner
in his studio which didn’t pan out, then eventually
moved to Dubuque, Iowa, where he began picking up
the pieces. He connected with a local band, the
All-Night Riders, and recorded three CDs with them
before parting ways in 2008. An appearance
at the 2007 Chicago Blues Festival with Vernon and
Joe Harrington got the attention of Delmark Records,
and the result is Kinds’ new Delmark release, Love
You From The Top.
Vocally, Kinds has a fervent and expressive style
that sometimes will remind you of Syl Johnson or
even Magic Sam in its zeal, if not its polish. As a
guitarist, he’s just right…..he doesn’t overplay and
make things too flashy, and his lead work is tight.
His backing players (Al Pool – second guitar, Claude
Thomas – drums, Anthony Dotson – bass) are funky and
loose, and are complimented by the soaring saxophone
of Chicago legend Eddie Shaw on several tracks.
Kinds wrote all 15 of the songs here, including
the autobiographical tune, “Mason Dixon Line Blues,”
which features one of his best vocal turns on the
disc, the hearty title track, one of the four songs
that feature Shaw’s tenor sax, and the soulful “I
Got A Woman.” “If You Need It,” “Crack Headed
Woman,” “Oo Wee Baby” and several other tracks
have rhythm roots in Chicago’s West Side sound, and
“Take A Look At Yourself” mines the deep soul of
The West Side vibe continues on tracks like “Katie,”
“Body Slam,” and “Johnnie Mae.” Another highlight is
the humorous “I Didn’t Go Home,” about the perils of
overindulgence, but for me, the standout track was
the slow blues, “My Mama Told Me.” While the entire
disc is excellent, everything just seems to fall
perfectly into place on this track. Kinds’
impassioned vocals, his stinging lead guitar, and
the slow, steady groove make this track required
It’s wonderful to see James Kinds getting another
opportunity to shine before a larger audience.
Hopefully, he will take advantage of his good
fortune and continue to bless us with more great
performances and recordings.
--- Graham Clarke